Must Read Op-Ed and Profiles


#141

A GOP Congressman and former FBI agent says he thinks President Trump was manipulated by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Brian Fitzpatrick told NPR’s Michel Martin on All Things Considered that he drew that conclusion after the two leaders appeared in Helsinki.

"The president was manipulated by Vladimir Putin," Fitzpatrick said. "Vladimir Putin is a master manipulator."


#142

From NPR’s Fresh Air with Terry Gross.
This is a highly informative interview which lays out the link between Nigel Farage, Trump and Russia.

The Guardian’s Carole Cadwalladr’s investigation into Cambridge Analytica’s role in Brexit has led her to Russian connections and the Trump campaign. She says British investigators are now “working very closely with the FBI.”

https://www.npr.org/2018/07/19/630443485/reporter-shows-the-links-between-the-men-behind-brexit-and-the-trump-campaign

She worth following too.


(nina) #143

The Washington Post: The framers worried about corruption. Their words may now haunt the president.


(nina) #144

I thought I was done worrying about Vladimir Putin. I left Moscow in 2014 as the departing U.S. ambassador, after Putin spent my two-year stint deploying state-controlled media outlets and their surrogates to propagate disinformation about me. He’d been received tepidly in his campaign to retake the presidency from his ally, Dmitry Medvedev, and he needed an enemy. So his proxies falsely argued that I had been sent by President Barack Obama to fund the opposition and foment revolution; that I hoped Putin would end up like Serbian autocrat Slobodan Milosevic, dislodged and imprisoned; and that I was a pedophile. It was a demoralizing dimension of an otherwise great job, but the White House defended me zealously. (In meetings with both Putin and Medvedev, Obama criticized their treatment of me.) When I returned to my teaching position in 2014, I was relieved to leave it all behind.

But this month, at the Helsinki summit between the two nations, Putin was after me again, and at first I didn’t understand how sinister his attack was. During his two-hour one-on-one meeting with President Trump, Putin made his American counterpart an offer: He would permit U.S. law enforcement officials to witness the Russian interrogation of 12 Russian spies accused by the United States of interfering in the 2016 campaign, if his own agents could observe the interrogation of a similar number of American intelligence officers who, Russia alleges, committed crimes on Russian soil. In the fantasy Putin spun during the joint news conference, U.S. intelligence officers had helped American-born British citizen Bill Browder launder money out of Russia, which Browder then gave to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. It was a ludicrously false equivalency that linked the documented efforts of Russian hackers to tilt the election to Trump with a host of completely imagined offenses by U.S. government officials. Amazingly, Trump called Putin’s crazy proposal “an incredible offer.”

I was in Helsinki, too, as an analyst for NBC News. My initial reaction was incredulity. First, it was obvious that if Putin — a former KGB officer — could stand next to Trump and lie on world television about Russian noninterference in the election, his military intelligence officers would obviously do the same. Second, Putin’s fabricated story was insulting; of course American intelligence officers had not used their positions to aid someone’s alleged money laundering scheme. The blatant defamation of American officials, as Putin stood next to our president, really angered me. Third, this was classic “whataboutism,” a favorite Putin tactic in which he compares, for instance, the annexation of Crimea with something unrelated, like Kosovar independence. In Helsinki, however, Putin simply invented the comparable crime.

I didn’t think Trump was malicious to see merit in this cynical, deceitful offer. He has been naive about Putin and his autocratic regime for years; this was another expression of his misunderstanding of Putin’s methods, or so I believed in the moment. (Trump’s praise underscored why he should never have held a tete-a-tete with Putin. If he could get played on such an obvious no-no — handing over our intelligence officers to Russian interrogators — what else did he agree to in private?) It was just one more symptom of his gullibility, like his choice, during the presser, to side with Putin and against his own government on the question of 2016 meddling: “President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.”

Then, on the flight home, Russian journalists began pinging me, asking for my reaction to a statement from the spokesman for the top Russian prosecutor that implied I was under investigation for violating Russian law! “We’re ready to send another request to the US authorities to grant us permission to question these very employees of the US intelligence agencies, as well as a number of other US government officials and businessmen, in order to charge them for the crimes committed by Browder,” it said, citing my name as one of those government officials.

Here we go again, I thought. As the first U.S. envoy to Moscow to be banned from traveling to Russia since George Kennan, I thought my days of dealing directly with Putin’s regime were over. Yet, here it was spewing yet another crazy story about me, only now ratcheting up the intimidation by accusing me of a crime. Putin has silenced many domestic critics with disinformation and false legal charges. Now, amazingly, he was reaching out to muzzle an American professor, thousands of miles away in California.

On the long plane ride home, my incredulity over Putin’s chutzpah eventually morphed into anger with Trump. Why had my president — my commander in chief, my fellow American — called Putin’s scheme to defame, scare and threaten me and other critics of Putin “an incredible offer”? An American president cannot establish the dangerous precedent of allowing any foreign government, let alone a hostile power, to interrogate or threaten to indict American officials for work they did while serving in the U.S. government. If this could happen to a former senior White House official and ambassador who had immunity while working abroad, what could happen to ordinary diplomats? Or intelligence officers? Or soldiers? Or aid workers? Surely, I reasoned, Trump’s team would get this cleaned up, on the record, when he returned to American soil.

In their first attempt to correct the record, they failed miserably. A few days after the Helsinki summit, press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the White House was still considering Putin’s proposal for reciprocal interrogation of alleged criminals.

What? Did she too not grasp the gravity of this error? A flurry of outraged public reaction ensued, punctuated by a very rare bipartisan 98-to-0 vote in the Senate in defense of me and my fellow Americans on Putin’s list. The State Department spokeswoman, Heather Nauert, flatly dismissed Putin’s suggestion as “absurd” — but also made clear that she was not speaking for the White House.

In the third attempt to explain U.S. policy regarding Putin’s offer, Sanders said Trump had rejected the offer but still applauded the “sincerity” of the Russian president’s proposal. I’m not sure what was sincere about accusing me and others of some crazy crime to help the Clinton campaign by conspiring with a British businessman, but I was upset that my president hadn’t made a better effort — full-throated and without qualifications — to defend us. We all served, and some are still serving, our great country with honor. We do not deserve to be threatened by a foreign autocrat. This is not a partisan issue; this is an American issue.

I’m relieved to know that my government will not ask me to be interrogated by Russian law enforcement officials, but I still need my president to defend me and the other Americans from the next possible escalatory step — a warrant for my arrest, followed by the issuance of a Red Notice by Interpol to detain me in a third country and, in the worst of all worlds, extradite me to Russia. The Russian government has a reputation for abusing Interpol procedures for political ends.

In the end, it’s a low-probability event that Putin will order his government to indict a former U.S. ambassador for an invented crime. But I want it to be a zero-probability event, as does my family. And I want my government to help.

That’s because low-probability events occur increasingly often where Russia is concerned: the illegitimate arrest and murder, in prison, of Sergei Magnitsky; the annexation of Crimea; the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, a civilian jet flying over Ukraine, that killed nearly 300 people; the intervention in Syria to prop up a murderous dictator; the assassination of a former first deputy prime minister, Boris Nemtsov, just steps away from the Kremlin; the audacious Russian attack on American sovereignty during the 2016 presidential election; the poisoning of the Skripals with a Soviet chemical weapon on British territory; and the spinning of a conspiratorial tale at a major summit about how a British businessman colluded with U.S. intelligence officers, congressional staffers and former State Department officials (from both the George W. Bush and Obama administrations) to steal Russian cash and help the Clinton campaign.

Putin already has done real damage to my professional and personal life. I once was a scholar of Russian politics, but now I can’t travel to that country to conduct research, at least in the Putin era. Even if Russia removed me from its travel ban list, I would not risk going back now with the threat of arrest lingering. Since 1983, I have traveled and lived in the U.S.S.R. and Russia constantly, residing roughly half a dozen years there. I have hundreds of close Russian friends, thousands of acquaintances, and deep interests in Russian culture and history. That chapter of my life, spanning more than three decades, is now over.

I hope Trump, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and national security adviser John Bolton don’t give Putin another victory in his personal vendetta against me by allowing him to throw around false charges, bogus indictments and improper Red Notices issued in third countries. I hope they stand up — clearly, emphatically and publicly — for all Americans serving their country abroad and tell their Russian counterparts that charging (let alone dispatching Interpol to seize) former U.S. officials with fantastical crimes would be met with outrage, new sanctions and reciprocal measures.

That much, at least, should be easy. If the Trump administration does not act, then Congress should adopt new sanctions and other coercive moves to deter Russia from threatening U.S. government officials with detention. If the United States fails to protect its own citizens, it will send a message of weakness and permissibility to Moscow (and everywhere else). That signal will not help Trump obtain his objectives in negotiations with Russia (or anyone else). Putin, and the world, will be watching.

Michael McFaul
Michael McFaul is director of the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies and a Hoover fellow at Stanford University and a contributing columnist to The Post. He is the author of “From Cold War to Hot Peace: An American Ambassador in Putin’s Russia.” Follow


#145

Salon is featuring a fascinating and insightful interview with Greg Olear, author of the recently released “Dirty Rubles: An Introduction to Trump/Russia.” He doesn’t pull any punches. Here’s a sample:

Q: The crimes of Trump are much worse than even many of his opponents believe. How deep does his criminality run, and what should Americans realize, especially those who feel “bored” or confused by the Russian collusion story?

OLEAR: I think it’s hard for people to square the avuncular guy on TV who cracked jokes and fired people with the real Donald J. Trump. The truth is, the guy’s been mobbed up for decades, with ties to both La Cosa Nostra and Russian organized crime. Trump is a money launderer for the latter, and has been for quite some time. “Money laundering” sounds cute, like something Danny Ocean and his merry men do, but it’s a euphemism for something unspeakable. The Russian mob has become so vast and successful because it eagerly participates in the worst of the worst: human trafficking, child pornography, sex slavery, opioids, illegal arms deals, blood diamonds — all the grisly, awful stuff that Trump accuses MS-13 of doing. By taking those dirty rubles and making them legitimate, Trump is a party to all of that.

The media also likes to forget that Trump is a serial rapist and sexual predator. We can use the “allegedly” qualifier if you like, but he has bragged about this on many occasions. There are more than 20 accusers now, and I believe them.

And another:

Q: Why do you think the media, even as it seems obsessed with the Russia connection, have failed to capture the actual depth and breadth of the Trump-GOP-Russia story?

OLEAR: Let me say up front that I don’t think it’s neglect or apathy. Nor is there a shortage of really great journalists, many of whom continue to break great stories about Trump/Russia. It’s more of an institutional problem.

There are a few factors at work. First: The organizational system news companies use to report the news was and is ill-suited for the many-headed hydra that is Trump/Russia. Reporters tend to be siloed. They work beats. The problem is, Trump/Russia is so big that it does not confine itself to any one beat. There might be a relevant story written by a national security reporter, and one written by a White House correspondent, and another might appear in the international business section, and still another on Page Six of the New York Post. How are we supposed to know that they are connected to each other, and to Trump/Russia? What we needed, and what we still need, is a generalist—someone to look at the big picture and explain what the heck is going on.


#146

Can I just do a quick shout out to @matt. This is exactly what I think @matt is attempting to do through WTFJHT and why I follow closely and contribute. I know it started as a Trump specific blog but the sheer amount of content he has managed to sort through each day is astounding. Well done my friend, your hard work is appreciated.


(nina) #147

The Conservative movement is made up of Christian Conservatives, pro-NRA factions and traditional Republicans. They have forged alliances to these hard liners who may provide money, validation and a feeling of inalienable rights in areas of gun-owning, abortion, etc. They are a force to behold. A leader like Putin is someone who may have cracked the code in terms of what kinds of allegiances to attack or support within the Conservative movement.

Here’s a rundown of their strong bonds.

The links among Vladimir Putin, President Trump, and segments of both the Republican Party and the American conservative movement seem bizarre. How can this be, given the Russian president’s KGB pedigree and a Cold War history during which antipathy toward the Soviet Union held the right together?

In truth, there is nothing illogical about the ideological collusion that is shaking our political system. If the old Soviet Union was the linchpin of the Communist International, Putin’s Russia is creating a new Reactionary International built around nationalism, a critique of modernity and a disdain for liberal democracy. Its central mission includes wrecking the Western alliance and the European Union by undermining a shared commitment to democratic values.

Putin is, first and foremost, an opportunist, so he is also happy to lend support to forces on the left when doing so advances his purposes in specific circumstances. But the dominant thrust of Putinism is toward the far right, because a nationalism rooted in Russian traditionalism cements his hold on power.

And the right in both Europe and the United States has responded. Long before Russia’s efforts to elect Trump in the 2016 election became a major public issue, Putin was currying favor with the American gun lobby, Christian conservatives and Republican politicians.

In a prescient March 2017 article in Time magazine, Alex Altman and Elizabeth Dias detailed Russia’s “new alliances with leading U.S. evangelicals, lawmakers and powerful interest groups like the NRA.

The deepening ties between the Russian government and elements of the right should give pause to all conservatives whose first commitment is to democratic life. The willingness of traditionalists and gun fanatics to cultivate ties with a Russian dictator speaks of a profound alienation among many on the right from core Western values — the very values that most conservatives extol.


#148

Wow…nice to see someone with direct experience in the Intel Community and in Congress hit him with both barrels. I agree that the only way to get him out of the WH is to vote him out.

I believe a contributing factor to so many T supporters not being alarmed by Russia’s involvement in our elections and internal affairs is the low percentage of the population that has served in our military. They have no experience in seeing what the Russian military does in it’s intelligence gathering against the U.S.


#149

I believe it’s because Trump supporters are told not to believe it.


#150

True that too. Are they like sheep being led ro the slaughter?


(nina) #151

Can’t find words to Express my disbelief on this…

NYTimes: Editorial Board

Trump’s Crony Capitalists Plot a New Heist

The Treasury secretary floats a plan to hand $100 billion in capital gains tax savings to his moneyed friends. It’s almost certainly illegal.

By The Editorial Board

It seems that last year’s $1.5 trillion tax-cut package, despite heavily favoring affluent investors and corporate titans over workers of modest means, was insufficiently generous to the wealthy to satisfy certain members of the Trump administration. So now Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin offers an exciting plan to award an additional $100 billion tax cut to the richest Americans.

Specifically, Mr. Mnuchin has directed his department to explore allowing investors to take inflation into account when calculating their capital gains tax bill. (Instead of determining how much value a stock had gained by subtracting its selling price from its original purchase price, investors would first adjust the purchase price to reflect what it would be in inflation-adjusted dollars.) Fans of the move argue that it would benefit the wide swath of middle-class Americans who own stocks, along with all those older Americans whose homes have appreciated in value over the decades. And, indeed, many middle-class Americans could wind up with a sliver of savings. But not all investors are equal. Independent analyses say that a whopping 97 percent of the savings from Mr. Mnuchin’s plan would go to the highest 10 percent of income earners. (For the severely math challenged, that would leave a paltry 3 percent to be divvied up by the remaining 90 percent of the country.) Two-thirds of all savings would go to the top 0.1 percent of income earners.

So in rough dollar terms, the administration is looking to hand $66 billion-plus to the ultrarich like — just to name a few — Mr. Mnuchin, who did very, very well during his years at Goldman Sachs (and already has a net worth estimated at $252 million); Wilbur Ross, the loaded secretary of commerce (estimated net worth: $506.5 million); Betsy DeVos, the even richer secretary of education (about $1.1 billion); and, of course, the extended Trump-Kushner clan. (To be sure, Ivanka Trump could use a financial pick-me-up to help take the sting out of having to close down her clothing brand.)

Thus die the final vestiges of this president’s pretty little narrative about being a populist hero.

Hard-core economic conservatives and anti-tax activists have long pushed to index capital gains taxes for inflation under the dubious argument that it would bolster the overall economy. Unsurprisingly, this crusade has failed to catch fire in Congress, where even anti-tax lawmakers can be skittish about so blatantly playing to the plutocrats.

But here’s where Mr. Mnuchin’s plan is so politically inspired. He hopes to cut Congress out of this deal altogether by declaring it a regulatory matter and allowing Treasury to unilaterally redefine the term “cost.” No need to subject this process to the messiness of the legislative process when it is so much more efficient to claim jurisdiction for oneself and change the meaning of words to suit one’s purpose. Behold Trumpian logic at its purest.

One potential sticking point is that Mr. Mnuchin’s proposal may not be, strictly speaking, legal. Congress has never authorized the Treasury Department to interpret tax law in the bizarre way the secretary is advocating. And the last time such a possibility was floated, in 1992, President George Bush’s Justice Department shot it down with extreme prejudice. The department’s Office of Legal Counsel went so far as to issue a 23-page opinion laying out in excruciating detail why the Treasury Department does not have the legal authority to index capital gains for inflation by means of regulation.

So there’s that.

But the Trump administration isn’t one to fret about legal niceties when pursuing its pet projects. It much prefers to plow forward and let the court challenges shake out as they will. You win some. (Think travel ban, eventually, after multiple revisions.) You lose some. (Snatching migrant kids from their families at the border.) But as the adage goes, it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission.

More…


(nina) #152

Fill in the rest…


#153

Profile: Who or What the fuck is the FSB?
I’ll give you hint, they’re basically the newish KGB. Here’s a primer👇


#154

An Opinion Piece…the writer makes some good points.


(nina) #155

USA Today is a mainstream paper…highlights the avarice with which T 'n Co approach this power position.

Even after warnings that tariffs would wreak havoc on the economy, Donald Trump has staked his presidency on a series of trade wars that are now coming home to roost. With economic ruin looming over American farmers — a key constituency — he refuses to change course. Instead, he’s mulling a policy of clientelism, a $12 billion cash handout to the victims of his own bad ideas.

It’s a surprising development for many, especially the conservatives who have long lamented bailouts and subsidies, but it’s hardly out of character. On the contrary, it’s a natural fit for a White House that encourages corruption, exploitation and fraud in exchange for loyalty. As with his cabinet officials, he expects that the allure of taxpayer-funded kickbacks will be enough to keep farmers from holding him accountable for his own corruption and failures. It’s not an accident, it’s a strategy: grease the wheels of government so heavily that they spin in place.
>
Far from draining the swamp, Trump and his coterie of grifters, fraudsters and co-conspirators have filled it in entirely, dividing the land into personal fiefdoms to exploit.

Team Trump has been playing dirty
The result has been an open season for public funds, private payoffs, and abuses of office


#156

I don’t normally post video commentary (mainly because of the time commitment involved in watching it and because the links often go bad), but I just felt I needed to make an exception here. In this 12 min interview, Rosie O’Donnell really conveys what I’m feeling in my heart about the predicament we are now in. Highly recommended. If you are suffering from “Trump Fatigue,” this will get you fired up again.

Ari Melber Interviews Rosie O’Donnell, August 6, 2018:

Part 1

Part 2

Full disclosure: I would never have watched this since I have not been a fan of Rosie O’Donnell. But my sister recommended it to me and I’m glad I gave it a chance. Wow – is O’Donnell articulate – she just nails it. This gave me a real morale boost.


#157

I watched the protest she lead last night with 50 broadway actors at Layfette Park and I became a bit teary eyed when they sang, ‘America the Beautiful’.


(nina) #158

Thanks for posting.

I am all for getting out the message that we are under the spell of an autocratic leader, who’s not mentally fit for the job. I agree with Rosie’s notion that we all hope that our Democracy will hold up after this monstrous presidency is over, and that we will not fall into a more fascist-type government, with elimination of free press, free speech, anti-immigrant and rule by the loudest mouth.

I am glad she is taking action, and protesting in front of WH. She is all the more powerful as a media figure, and someone who does search for the truth. And her long term feud w/ The Donald is based on his dislike of her a) looks b) sexual preferences c) outspoken nature can drum up more support from the women voters and as you said, you!

She is HOWEVER being pummeled by pundits on that idea that Russia stole the election…and while I think it was a big influencer, and it did impact it, not sure that will be proven. But many believe that the difference of 70,000 votes in the three mid west states, MI, WI and PA and manipulation of Cambridge Analytica data definitely put enough doubt about Hillary, that Russian forces did in fact manipulate it.

I believe she leads from the heart and she has a great message about defending all that our democracy stands for. I hope she does not get sidelined by someone from the Right - Fox commentator etc.


#159

Excellent analysis showing how Democrats are well positioned going into the mid-terms. This should give us optimism, but we face huge challenges ahead and must never be lulled into complacency. (And don’t forget that you can make a real difference with Act Blue.)

89 Days! Charge! :horse_racing:


#160

Times reporter Mark Leibovich profiles Paul Ryan in an exit interview. It’s everything you would expect from this Speaker of the House.

“I haven’t seen today’s — what did he do now?” Ryan asked me. This was three days after the president’s fateful news conference in Helsinki, in which Trump steamrollered the conclusion of United States intelligence agencies that Russia meddled in the 2016 election while accepting that Vladimir Putin was “extremely strong and powerful” in his denial. Ryan, who issued a relatively pointed statement after Helsinki (“The president must appreciate that Russia is not our ally”) grabbed a printout of the hour-old tweet I had helpfully brought along and read it silently to himself, except for a few phrases that he spat out under his breath (“summit,” “great success,” “fake news media”).

“Uh, yeah, O.K., whatever,” Ryan said, shaking his head and smirking. “Didn’t he do one like that two days ago?” This tweet was just another episode of the same sitcom, in other words.

Listen to the audio :point_down: